Coworking Tips: How To Collaborate With Other Freelancers

Coworking and collaboration

Last week I wrote about mentoring new freelancers as a way to become more involved in the coworking community. This week, I’d like to take a look at another way to help create a vibrant, more connected community: hiring your friends and fellow members.

For many business owners, the words “hiring your friends” set off multiple alarms and warning whistles. Working with friends and family members can be a recipe for disaster…unless you know how to do it right.

With the proper preparation and foresight, collaborating with fellow coworking members can reduce stress, improve the quality of your product, and enrich your life as a community member.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a collaborator:

Don’t assume that because you know them, they’re the right freelancer for the job. Whether it’s with your best friend or the newest member of your coworking space, a collaboration will only be successful if you choose the right person for the job. Look at integrity as well as ability. Think about the way they conduct themselves with fellow members and their clients. They might be good for a laugh, but will they buckle down when the deadline’s looming?

Walk softly, and carry a comprehensive contract. It’s one thing to offer your coworker $20 to edit an article you wrote. It’s another to invite them to be part of a three-month project. Contracts define who is responsible for what, and when it needs to be delivered. Oh yeah, and how much everyone gets paid. If there’s money involved, using a contract shows that you respect your collaborator, and want to make sure they are protected as well. DO IT.

Don’t be a dick. Just because you’re entering into a business relationship doesn’t mean you have to forget that you are friends. Or at least friendly acquaintances. Be flexible. Understand (within reason) life happens. Try to divide and conquer work in a way that’s comfortable for everyone involved. The best collaborations will feel like they were meant to be, and quality work will flow naturally from their formation.

Don’t be a pushover. In your zeal to be accommodating, don’t forget that you’re a businessperson with a job to do. If someone’s slacking, don’t be afraid to say something. It will only cause you stress and cost you money if you don’t.

Collaboration Checklist via Freelance Folder:

  • Does that person have any special skills?
  • Will it be beneficial for both of you?
  • How well do you know this person?
  • Is the person financially stable? (will you get paid?)
  • Is this person reliable? Punctual, honest, hard-working?
  • Can you delegate tasks to this person? (vice-versa)
  • What would happen if you ever disagree on something business related? Something personal?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Who gets the credit?
  • How will the pay is to be divided?

Have you ever collaborated with a fellow freelancer? Would you do it again? Share your experience in a comment!

Get Involved: 3 Reasons To Become A Freelancing Mentor

Coworking Mentoring

Lately, there’s been some talk among coworking space owners about how to build a community of coworkers, not just a community of desk renters.

Coworking has the ability to transform individual careers and invigorate local economies, but only when members use their talent and personality to take it to a level above desk-sharing.

Space owners and community managers can do their best to provide intentional avenues to get people talking, but at the end of the day when there’s no event scheduled the community will only thrive if members aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zones and talk to each other without needing a staff person to help them do it.

The freelance industry is exploding. Everyday, fresh new faces join the trend, excited but completely unprepared for the challenges ahead. (Remember, that was you once!)

If you’re the slightly introverted type, and would rather plug-in and crank out work than conversate, consider this:

1. Sharing Is Caring: We all know how hard it is to be the new kid. In fact, that’s why lots of us got off the corporate merry-go-round in the first place. Coworking is supposed to be different, but once a community is established, it’s easy to fall into the same routines, slogging to our usual spot, plugging-in and checking out. Mentoring doesn’t need to be a formal process, it’s as easy as taking an interest in a new member’s profession, or asking them out to lunch. Asking about how a project’s progressing, offering to give feedback, or making a professional introduction are all easy ways to make a big impact in a fellow-coworker’s day.

2. Teaching Makes You An Expert: Have you hit a professional plateau? Feel like you’re at the top of your game, and the challenge has suddenly disappeared? Taking a less-experienced freelancer under your wing is a great way to put your treasure-trove of knowledge and experience to work. If you’ve always wanted to try consulting or public speaking, one on one mentoring is a great way to test the waters and build your reputation as an expert.

3. Help A Noob Avoid Mistakes: While there are some trials of business ownership that must be experienced, lots of mistakes could be avoided if only there was someone to tell you what to look out for. Baby freelancers are full of questions, and just dying for someone to answer them. Make yourself available. Chime in when someone’s struggling with an issue you’ve already conquered. Not only will you be helping to cultivate a more vibrant coworking community, you’ll be building major karma points as well.

Would you be willing to help a new freelancer learn the ropes? Or, if you’re new to freelancing, would you like to find a mentor? Share your thoughts in a comment!

 

Image Credit: Flickr – IK’s World Trip

 

3 Free Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

It’s back to school time, and all the little kiddos are filling up their backpacks and messenger bags with the tools of the trade: pencils, notebooks, graphing calculators, etc.

Which got me to thinking: what tools should freelancers have in their arsenal to make it easier to attract new clients and run their business like a business?

After a little poking around I found these completely free, online tools that can help you get better results from what you’re already doing in an organized fashion:

1. FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator: We’ve talked a lot about raising your rates, and sticking to your guns when overly-thrifty clients challenge them. But how exactly do you decide on an hourly rate that will truly help cover your expenses now and in the future? Well the clever folks over at FreelanceSwitch created just the tool to help you do that: In just 5-20 minutes, you’ll have a guideline for the necessary hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.

2. BranchOut: There are dozens of referral sites, professional directories, and networking communities available online. At this point, however, most of the people you know or want to know are already using Facebook, so why start from scratch? BranchOut is an application that effortlessly unlocks massive amounts of career data about your friends and friends of friends that was just impossible to get to before.

3. SimplifyThis.com – Tired of entering appointments into Google calendar, calculating billable hours in a spreadsheet, and then issuing invoices with a third tool? SimplifyThis (what a great name, huh?) is both an appointment book for keeping track of your meetings, and any of those that might be billable, as well as a full invoicing service with payment gateway integrations.

Share your favorite free tools for staying organized (and sane) in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr –  L. Marie

3 Reasons Some Freelancers Should NOT Try Coworking

Tomorrow is International Coworking Day. That means a lot of over enthusiastic freelancers are probably going to convince you to give coworking a try. But change is hard, and often uncomfortable, so here are three reasons why you should just ignore them and go back to whatever it is you were doing.

1. Coworkers are WAY too motivated. Because freelancers who cowork find it easier to keep their professional and personal life separate, they’re actually excited to put their skills to work. And on the rare occasion when a coworker has writer’s block or suffers from a bad case of procrastination, their fellow freelancers are on hand to talk it out or provide a little nudge in the right direction. If you prefer watching daytime TV and cramming all your work into the three hours before a project’s due, avoid coworking at all costs.

2. Coworkers get dressed (and brush their teeth) every day. Don’t these people realize that pajama pants, bed head, and poor oral hygiene are the freelancer’s uniform? Be careful, getting too involved in a coworking community could result in morning time energy and a desire to be around other people. You may be persuaded to comb your hair, put on makeup and do laundry on a regular basis. If you prefer comfort over community, avoid coworking at all costs.

3. Coworking will force you to advance your career. Coworkers take the time to continue their education so they can stay at the top of their game. They attend workshops, seminars, and networking events. They ask questions of their peers and get instant feedback from community members that helps them provide superior services to their clients. They challenge each other to remain competitive in their respective fields. If you’re happy with the slow growth of your freelance business, and don’t want to start pulling in more money or clients just yet, please, AVOID COWORKING AT ALL COSTS!

(But! If you’re the kind of freelancer that craves the support of a vibrant, motivated community, and is ready to meet deadlines, put on pants, and take your career to the next level….please, GIVE COWORKING A TRY!)

Image Credit: Flickr – tofslie

What Freelancers Should Know About Google Plus

Hoping that the third time’s the charm (remember Buzz and Wave?) the company behind the world’s top search engine recently launched a new social networking platform: Google+.

If you’ve been on any of the other well-established social media sites in the past week, chances are you’ve heard a peep or two about it.

Let’s be serious, the notion that the web’s best search service has launched a social network that could combine the intuition of Facebook and the speed of Twitter with possibilities for seamless integration into any existing Google tool is enough to make nerds quiver with excitement.

However, the idea of learning how to use a new social media tool correctly and efficiently hardly brings on the same jovial feelings. Let’s face it, until you know what you’re doing, using social media can be a time suck as well as a frustrating endeavor.

As freelancers with limited time, the big question is: Should we bother?

Here are some thoughts gleaned from freelancing experts and social media “gurus” around the web:

1. Ease into it: Go ahead and create a personal profile (if you can get an invite) and play around in your spare time, but don’t worry about migrating your business profile just yet. Chances are, you’ve had at least a few contacts “add you to their circles” and if you’ve got a few minutes, it’s worth poking around in the tool. Hell, if you’ve got gmail, that only takes one click. But for now, the “business experience” is still under development and Google is actually asking businesses and freelancers to avoid using “consumer profiles” for business purposes. When it’s ready, Google+ will have “rich analytics” and will be easy to integrate with Google Adwords and other goodies.

2. Get a jump on success: If your business is social media marketing, SEO, or content marketing, waiting too long to check out what Google+ has to offer could hurt you. This is the new frontier, and just like with Facebook and Twitter a few years ago, the people who figure out new and creative ways to engage online communities with this tool today will be the experts of tomorrow. Watch the platform carefully, look for avenues of opportunity nobody else is taking full advantage of, and move in with your own particular sales pitch.

3. Savvy sharing: Privacy and segmented sharing (two things that Twitter and Facebook have trouble with) are both prominent features of Google+. By creating circles of contacts, you make it possible to share links, ideas, pictures and more with only those that will appreciate it most (or judge you least). This has big implications for businesses and freelancers who are always looking for more efficient ways to communicate with their current clients as well as potential customers.

4. Impact your page rank: It’s also worth knowing that Google+ users themselves now have the opportunity to “vote” on the value of content and ultimately impact search engine rankings. This has the potential to level the page rank playing field, as simple blog post with 3,000 votes on Google+ may very well beat out a similar story with only 300 votes on a  major website. In the future, this may make SEO copywriting obsolete.

For more on Google+ and all it’s shiny possibilities, listen to Google PR Strategist David Allen talk about about an “optimized business experience” for Google+ in the video below.

And if it’s really keeping you awake at night, here are some additional resources:

Sources: WritingThoughts | PGC.org | Freelance-Zone

Cohere Coworking Launches First Small Business: Akinz

Cohere, a local shared office space is proud to announce the expansion of Akinz, one of its first small business members and purveyor of stylish clothing for an active lifestyle.

Akinz owner Suzanne Akin started designing clothing as a hobby in 2005, and as an avid wakeboarder and snowboarder, was inspired to create exciting clothing options for the action sports scene.

After moving to Fort Collins two years ago, Akin hoped to focus on growing her business, but also wanted to meet locals that were interested in art, design, and active lifestyles. She heard that a local business was offering “trial coworking days” in a shared office space as a way to build community among local freelancers, and couldn’t wait to check it out.

That business was Cohere coworking community at 215 Jefferson St., and Akin soon joined as the first official member.

“Suzanne came to Cohere every day for the first six months we were open,” says Angel Kwiatkowski, owner and Madame of Cohere. “During that time she created bright new designs for her clothing line, and every day, the coworking community members would offer suggestions about everything from t-shirt graphics to marketing strategies.”

Shortly after releasing its 2011 spring line, Akinz held a clearance sale at the Cohere space during which the business sold over $1,000 in merchandise in two hours.

Successful Akinz Sale at Cohere

Fellow Cohere members also gave Akin the motivation she needed to create local programs that have now become quite successful, like the annual Akinz Sunglasses at Night party and Akinz Bike to Work Day T-shirts with bike delivery.

“Being around other people that were running their own successful freelance businesses definitely helped boost the “I can do this” thought process,” says Akin. They are a great network of people that support me in everything I do!”

When she became flooded with beanie orders last winter (Akinz beanies are handmade and a big seller during the Colorado winter), Akin knew she had outgrown her Cohere membership.

“Around December 2010 I decided it was time for me to buy my own printing press so I could have more creative and financial freedom in printing my clothes, and that was the tipping point,” says Akin. “After that, there was no way to pretend that I could fit all of my business into our second bedroom and I knew it was time for Akinz to “graduate.”

Entrepreneurs who join coworking spaces get instant access to a huge network of brilliant, well connected professionals who are truly vested in one another’s success. Akinz is just the one of many startups that Cohere plans to help launch in the coming years.

Fort Collins shoppers can find Akinz clothing at The Wright Life, Killer Rabbit, and White Balcony, as well as online at Akinz.com and the new Akinz store at 432 S. Link Lane.

About Akinz

Akinz is a clothing line for those with an active lifestyle who expect the extraordinary. Started in 2005 in the studio apartment of founder Suzanne Akin, the Akinz motto, “Find your wings.” encourages men and women to find the one thing that motivates them to push life to the limit and reach for the sky. After all, life’s too short to settle for the ordinary. Find handmade Akinz clothing, accessories, and jewelry in local stores and online at Akinz.com.

About Cohere

Cohere is a collaborative shared office space and coworking community for freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers located in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. Coworking creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration and success than coffee shops, executive suites, or private office space. Learn more about Cohere by requesting a free day pass at www.coherecommunity.com or by joining the Mobile Workforce meetup group.

 

Why Continuing Education Is Essential For Freelancers

Lots of people hear the word “freelance” and interpret it to mean “between jobs.” While it might be true that some aspects of a freelance job are less concrete than punching a clock in an office building every day (like location or regularity of paycheck) many freelancers feel more secure with a diverse array of clients and skills to choose from.

The key to sustaining freelance success is continuing your education, both in your chosen field and as a general businessperson. If it’s been a while since you’ve learned something new, here are reasons to think about whipping those brain cells back into shape.

1. What’s New Is Already Old

Technology advances at the speed of light. What’s cutting-edge one day is obsolete the next. While it might not happen quite as quickly, business practices are changing too. Although you might be comfortable in your knowledge chances are there are new and more efficient ways of approaching client needs that you haven’t heard about yet. The key to attracting and retaining the best clients is your ability to offer professional expertise in the most advanced areas of your field.

2. Better Education = More Pay

“Worker skills must evolve to meet the demands of an increasingly globalized, technology-driven workplace,” found a 2007 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management. Even in a recession, large businesses realize that investing in personal and professional development makes sense. You’re a business too. If you want to compete with the big boys and increase your hourly fee, maintaining a current level of education and certification is a no-brainer.

3. It Keeps You Connected

Taking a workshop, signing up for a seminar, or attending an industry conference are all easy ways to expand your professional network as well as your knowledge base. If you want to be tapped in to the pulse of your profession, you need to be talking, sharing, and learning from other freelancers and industry leaders. Armed with the collaborative skills you’ve learned from coworking, these individuals could become your future clients and business partners.

>>Next Week: Easy Ways To Continue Your Freelance Education

3 Ways To Zero In On What You Do Best

Zero In On Your Target Offerings

Recently, I read a great article from the folks at Freelance Folder (a fantastic resource to bookmark if you haven’t yet). The post was called “25 Easy Ways To Fine Tune Your Freelance Business” and it contained useful tips about how to keep your business fresh and avoid becoming bogged down with bad projects or the boring “business” side of things.

Most people who read the article seemed to hone in on tip number 4: Decide on a niche.

“I started making a lot more money and got a ton of clients after I decided to put myself into two niches: working with freelancers and agencies only and only doing HTML, CSS and WordPress work,” says the author. “Find out what part of the process you really enjoy and only do that kind of work.”

It was this last statement that really seemed to resonate with readers, so I wanted to explore some ways to segment your talents and zero in on what you truly enjoy.

1. Pay Attention To What You’re Doing: This is sound advice in almost every aspect of life, but you might not realize how easy it is to stop paying attention once you’re a seasoned freelancer. If you’re not in the habit of making an editorial calendar, to-do list, or tracking your hours, give it a try. Pay attention not only to the things that MUST get done today, but to the differences between list items. Do you avoid certain items because they’re more or less creative/structured/logical than others on the list? Do you dread writing content for one type of business, but hate it for another? Do you find joy in creating the architecture of a website or fine-tuning it for usability purposes rather than designing the logo or figuring out the best color scheme? These are clues about what make you happy and successful. Note them.

2. Revise Your Elevator Pitch: I’m not sure there are any freelancers that really think their elevator pitch is winning them clients. Reassessing the short version of how you describe yourself and your professional offerings is a great way to start manifesting the type of business you really want. If you call yourself a marketer, but what you really enjoy is creating and growing online communities via social media, it’s time to revamp your pitch. If you say that you offer market research services but what you long to do all day is write grants for non-profits, it’s time to think about changing how you talk about yourself.

3. Do Some Weeding: It’s all fine and good to notice the parts of the process that you truly enjoy, and mention them in your tag line, but if you continue working projects that miss the mark, it will only heighten your frustration. Once you’ve zeroed in on the elements that make you and your clients the happiest, it’s time to start weeding out the projects that don’t belong. Most client work has a rhythm, so the next time an undesirable project is winding down, it’s time to find a way to fire that client. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or negative. In fact, if you’ve got a good rapport with the client, try to leave it open ended. If they like you, they’ll be willing to give you some time to explore other avenues of your industry. If they start to panic, try to refer them to another freelancer that can handle the job.

It’s hard to let go of work, especially since many of us fight so hard to find it in the first place. But as you zero in on what’s best for you and your business, you’ll find that the right projects appear when you need them. Fine-tuning your business is a never-ending process. Worry about being great at what you do, and the money will follow.

Image Credit: Flickr – ogimogi

Why Failure Is The Best Part Of Coworking

Kitty Fail

Everyone fails at something.

OK, that might not sound like the most uplifting opener for a Monday morning blog post, but that’s because you’re looking it at it wrong.

Everyone fails. Those people who look like they always have their shit together just learned how to hide it. Your failures don’t make you special or odd, they actually make you normal. You’re not the first independent professional to fail at something, and you won’t be the last.

The other reason to cheer up when you fail is that it puts you in a unique position to be a rock star in the coworking community.

I’ll explain.

No one learns anything of value from someone who’s perfect. Except maybe how to resent said perfectionist. Some of our best times together as a community occur when someone shares their really messy failure story, and we figure out how to clean it up. Or at least how to avoid that same mistake in the future.

We talk a lot about the collaboration and socialization that makes coworking so neat. But it’s really our ability to fail and then share what we learned (or are learning) from that unpleasant experience that helps us become better at what we do.

A community where everyone keeps their failures to themselves is shallow and uninteresting. It’s way more fun to be real. Life as an independent is messy and complex, and all we’ve got is each other! We want to see the roughest draft, hear the first/worst idea, and feel the pain of the client you knew you shouldn’t take.

So don’t hold back! Tell us when you feel like bailing and taking an office job. Tell us when you mailed a press release with a typo. Tell us when you gave the client too much info in the free consultation. Tell us when you take on a client without a contract…and then get screwed on an invoice. Tell us when you bite off more than you can chew.

When you allow us to experience your failures in all their glory, we not only grow as professionals, we grow together as a community. And that’s why failure is the best part of coworking.

Let’s talk about something that went wrong! Share a notable goof, failure or brain fart from your past, and let’s get to learnin’!

Image Credits: Flickr – styro

5 Dignified Ways To Fire That Crappy Client

Trump Fire That Crappy Client

Last week, we talked about reasons to emancipate yourself from toxic clients: y’know, the clients you dread working for/calling/meeting with but think you have to tolerate because of the money.

We discovered staying with these crappy clients just for the money defeats the purpose of working for yourself (i.e. control) and often drags your business away from its true brand and goals.

But, firing a client isn’t an easy job. Since most of us can’t afford to fly George Clooney in for the afternoon, here are some ways for handling this uncomfortable situation like a professional:

1. The “I’ll pay when it’s convenient for me” client: Net 14 means nothing to this client. They wait until all their bills are paid to see if they have extra for your invoice. Or worse yet, they pay only after they’ve been paid by their clients, and who knows whether they’re crappy or not?! Unacceptable.

Pull a Donald by: Send this client a notice that you’re turning their unpaid invoices over to collections. That should send a pretty strong message. If they still don’t pay, actually send their unpaid invoices over to collections. Most importantly, refuse to take on more projects until you’re caught up. Either set up a strict payment schedule in the future or inform this client that you’re unavailable for more.

2. The “You’re a freelancer so you have to take my shit” client: This client wants you to offer all the bells and whistles of a large firm but still wants to pay you peanuts. This client enjoys your ability to come in under-budget and before deadline, but thinks that it gives license to nickle and dime you on rate, and expect things to be completed over night (you don’t need to sleep, do you?!) Worse yet, this client rarely has their shit together, meaning your schedule is thrown off and other projects suffer because of it.

How to pull a Donald: Let this client see what it’s like to return to the impersonal world of larger companies. Inform them (politely) that you think their needs would be better served by another company. You might even suggest one. You can also let them know that you’re taking your company in another direction, and not renewing any contracts at this time. The key here is to be clear without jeopardizing that unpaid invoice.

3. The “I know better than you” client: This client understands how to do your job because last weekend, his cousin showed him the basics of the computer program you use. Of course, he doesn’t realize that he needs your expert skills to use this tool to do the things he really wants to do. He’ll tell you exactly what to do and how to do it, turning you into a production house instead of letting you do what you do best.

How to pull a Donald: First of all, do your best to remove any references to your name or company on work you’ve done for this client. Why? Because he’ll probably try to tinker around on his own and completely mess up your work in the process. Then, stop the project, get caught up on invoices and give him whatever you’ve done so far. He’ll probably hand it off to his cousin to see if he can finish it.

4. The “keep this on the down-low” client: Reputation is everything when you’re a freelancer. Bending your integrity, even on something small, even for just one client, makes you feel icky and lowers the bar for the next guy. Avoid this slippery slope altogether.

How to pull a Donald: To reason with this client, you can explain why you prefer to do things the way you do. If she simply doesn’t understand or refuses to accept your methods, it’s time to cut ties. Explain the problems that her requests create for you and let her down easy. If you haven’t already, provide your alternative ideas for how to complete the job in a more ethical manner. Then, the ball’s in her court and either way, you win.

5. The “I know this isn’t your passion, but can’t you do it anyway?” client: People enter the uncertain life of a business owner for one simple reason: they love doing something and they want to do it 24 hours a day. There are very few things a person can be this passionate about. Money is nice, but accepting the wrong client means that you’ll be tied to a project that you probably hate. And with that kind of imprisonment, you might as well be back at the office.

How to pull a Donald: Use the age-old “it’s not you, it’s me.” Inform them that your core competencies just don’t jive with their strategic vision. Don’t feel pressured if this client starts to whine about all the other projects he had lined up for you. If you can, refer him to a colleague or competitor that you know can deliver what he wants. A referral is key, because you don’t want him to be unsatisfied and claim that you can’t do your job. You could do it, you just don’t want to :)

Sources: stuntdubl.com | insidecrm.com

Our blog is pretty awesome.
What are you looking for?

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay in touch with news and events from the Cohere community with a monthly subscription to our newsletter.

The only spam we like is fried. We assume you feel the same.